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Posts tagged ‘gallbladder’

A hard-fought diet battle

Over the past four weeks my stomach has waged a relentless war against me. Everything I eat has made me sick. Every run I went on suffered from it. Every training decision I made was marred by the fact that I couldn’t fuel properly.

And now, as the problems seem to be receding, I’m having to make some difficult decisions about the marathon I’m supposed to be running in less than a month. The likelihood is that now I can’t. I won’t be able to get in my long runs. I don’t have enough energy to do so with a very limited diet either.

I’m losing the war.

When my gallbladder was removed in emergency surgery, I was told, repeatedly, that my diet had to change. I HAD to cut out certain foods and drinks. There was no way around it.

But over a seven-month period, my bad habits creeped back into what was once a very clean diet.

Those bad habits include an very dependent relationship on Diet Coke. And a love of the occasional cupcake. Then there’s a horrible habit of overeating.

Over summer, when I was working from home more, my diet became worse and worse. I was still running 100 miles a month, but I was also eating a lot of burrito bowls. Then I was drinking a lot of diet soda.

In July, I realized that I had packed on some pounds. My time for the Summer Breeze Half Marathon wasn’t bad at 2:19, but I was tired the entire run. It was definitely not my 2:16 half time from June. I was sluggish. But I also just wanted to stop running again, half way through 13.1 and give up.

By mid-August, I was having digestion issues that were causing to me call and cancel my runs with Sam and Jennie. The two had started running early in the morning three days a week. I could, maybe, get my stomach under control one day of the three to run with them.

My diet was all out of sorts.

I reverted to treadmill running where I had control over my situation a little better. By situation I meant that if I had to go to the bathroom immediately, I would be able to quickly. I know that’s TMI, but quick trips to the bathroom have become commonplace.

So two weeks ago, I did something drastic: I severely cut my diet. I removed nearly everything that was making me sick, or that I thought was, and added everything back one by one, slowly.

It meant that for about four days, all I ate was toast with an almond-butter spread from A Loving Spoon.

Seriously, two slices of wheat toast with a little almond butter (which is made locally in Mountain House with all-natural ingredients), was the only thing I could stomach for about three days.

In a week, I lost four pounds.

This past week, I started adding fruits (which were really, really hard on my stomach) back in moderation. Bananas first. Then apples. No peaches yet. My one experience with pineapples this week left me feeling a little queasy, so I won’t be trying that again for another couple weeks.

I’ve had chicken, but red-meat hasn’t been good to me either.

I’m also eating significantly less, cutting my portions by more than half.

So far, my stomach has felt A LOT better. I haven’t had as many issues with rushed bathroom trips (this is a good thing since school started back up and half of the women’s rooms in my building have been torn down). Yesterday, I finally got through a six-mile run without trouble.

It took two weeks. I know my stomach is nowhere near “healed.” I know I did a lot of damage to it with a summer of eating bad stuff.

And these weeks where it hurt more to run than it should have mean that I’m likely going to switch to the half marathon at for the Half Moon Bay International Marathon. I know I could probably slog (slow+jog) through 26.2 miles, but I’m starting to feel like it may not be worth it.

What would my motivation be if I knew I wouldn’t be at my top performing shape? Just to finish another one? To tell people I ran a marathon that weekend? It just doesn’t seem worth it.

Plus, I have two more half marathons the following weekends that I want to run. I don’t want to injure myself on Sept. 29 and NOT be able to run the other races, particularly the Rock ‘n’ Roll San Jose Half Marathon, which will be my “Grand Slam” Heavy Medal finish (and my last for this year).

Perspective is telling me there will be more marathons. Experience is telling me I’m not ready for this one.


All I know is I’m tired of looking like I did above, struggling, at the end of a race.

So instead of gunning for a PR in the full at Half Moon Bay, I’m going to work on getting through my next couple races while trying to work through these ongoing stomach issues. I feel like it’s going to be a hard-fought battle … which I’m hopefully now getting the upper hand in.

When Oakland actually became my ‘A’ race


When I decompressed from running a ridiculously soggy California International Marathon last December, I realized two things:

  1. I was overcoming the anxiety that had paralyzed me and all but taken away my voice and confidence
  2. I was gunning for the Oakland Half Marathon to be my “A” race

Two very different realizations, yes.

But running CIM a second time, during one of the worst periods of my life, made me think that if a marathon could make me overcome something so seriously wrong with me, maybe gunning for a new “A” race would continue to promote that healthy perspective. It matters, though, that Oakland was my first-ever half marathon in 2011. CIM was my first marathon the same year.

I have sentimental attachments to both.

And after emergency gallbladder surgery, a broken arm and an incredibly messed up training cycle, today, Oakland actually became my “A” race.

I’m not afraid to admit, there were some tears. There were also exasperated sighs. The moment after I finished, all I wanted to do was collapse into a ball and scream. I can’t relate the feeling any other way. It wasn’t anxiety, though this is the biggest race I’ve done since crap went down last October. (Confession: I had my first panic attack since last October this week. It wasn’t as traumatic as that one, but it took me right back to THAT day. And it kind of ruined my week and made me feel fragile again. The trigger was a very similar, hopeless situation like what happened to me last fall.)

Today, I felt pure bliss. I haven’t felt that in more than a year. My heart sang and danced. I felt more free than I ever have before.

That bliss came in an official time of 2:20:52. Nearly a two-minute better than my August PR time.

My husband called it, as if he knew I had it in me. Though he was a couple minutes off.

“I should expect you around 2:18, right,” he said as we circled Lake Merritt to go to the start.

I laughed.

“You’re out of your damn mind if you think I’ll be that fast,” I responded.

He wasn’t far off.

Last night, I was considering not even going to this race. I was throwing in the towel before I even started. The panic attack did that too me. It, again, made me doubt everything I knew. It paralyzed me with fear. I even offered my very-tired husband, who has worked six days a week at his engineering job since last fall for a rebuild project, an out. I told him we didn’t have to go. Fine by me. He could sleep.

I’m thankful he’s a man smart enough to know I was looking for an out. He wasn’t giving me one.

I also knew that on my list of consistent things that pulled me out of the darkness last year, running was at the top. With each run, the confidence came back.

Two years ago, this half marathon made me feel like I could do anything the moment I finished. Last year, I suffered through physical and emotional pain, doubting myself every step.

Today, it made me fearless.

I feel like I’ve been cheesy on a lot of my posts lately, but I can’t help but feel liberated these past couple months. Something in me has changed. And it’s not just the gallbladder being gone.

It means today I gave Oakland the race it deserved. More than anything else, those streets defined who I became as a person during my two years of graduate school at UC Berkeley. I became “me” in Oakland, away from my family, my now husband and my life before that point. That race deserved a better performance than I had given in previous years.

More importantly, I gave myself the race I always knew I had in me.

I hang my PR medal right in front of my computer in my home office. It’s to remind me of what I can accomplish. Right now it’s also reminding me of how far I’ve come.

And that PRs are made so that we can break them.

On expectation and reality


I made a confession yesterday that I’m now feeling less anxious about saying out loud: I may not be ready to run the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon this weekend.

I’ve been thinking it for weeks. I only started really feeling it and wanting to be open about it 14 hours ago.

I told myself I needed at least three 10-milers to be OK with this training cycle. I’ve done two. The first one was a horrible struggle. Less than halfway through I felt like keeling over and just dying. Or at least disappearing into the ground.

Over the weekend, I told myself I’d do another. Then I went wine tasting and was having an amazing day with friends when my now gallbladderless body decided to rebel against me majorly for the first time since my surgery.

I had a margarita with dinner out at a restaurant. I ate barbecue chicken, coleslaw, corn and a bunch of other things. Within twenty minutes of eating, I found myself in the bathroom and (sorry, this may be TMI) throwing up everything I’d eaten during the day. My body wasn’t having it. I felt horrible.

I put off Sunday’s run for as long as I could, until Sunday was over.

I worked from home on Monday, straight through lunch and into the afternoon. At about 2:30 p.m. I decided it was time to put out or get out, for lack of a better term.

I started running. I didn’t stop for 10 miles.

It wasn’t a horrible run. I hit my training thresholds. I just felt completely unprepared after.

Why? Because my training runs haven’t really been “training” runs lately. I haven’t used Gu. I haven’t paid attention to hydration. In fact, my biggest concern has been my abdominal comfort and not overdoing it too soon. I never expected to have emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder last month. Doctors didn’t even know what it was, after years of tests and a previous surgery, so there was no way I could have prepared for any of this in my training cycle.

I look back now and realize I was living with a ton of pain. When I woke up in the hospital after my surgery, I hurt like hell where they put holes in me. But I also remember feeling something I hadn’t for awhile: no underlying abdomen pain. I guess the human body can withstand certain thresholds of discomfort and even make them normal. My pain was normal for me.

My expectation after the surgery was that I’d be up and running in a matter of weeks. The reality has been a lot harder.

My husband asked if I could switch to the 10K. I kindly told him there was no 10K option, which would likely have been far for doable for me in my current state.


Instead, I’ll be venturing down to Pasadena to try my luck against a four-hour window in which I have every reason to fail. My running buddy actually assured me that I couldn’t do worse than her since she hasn’t run over four miles in forever. I, somehow, do not feel better about this whole thing.

The problem with signing up for races too far in advance is that most people don’t know what happens between the moment you hit “register” and the  moment you are at the start line.

In a perfect world, you would be fully trained by the time the gun goes off. Many people are not. Those who are may or may not have skipped or skimped one or more of their runs. There are cramps, torn ligaments, strains and sprains that set training back. There are unexpected events, whether personal or physical.

“Life is full of setbacks,” one of my old Lululemon bags I now use for my lunch has written on it. “Success is determined by how you handle those setbacks.”

I can’t help but think that Pasadena will be a critical point for my personal and athletic setbacks. My last race was weeks before I went back to work in December. This is my first race since I put all of that crap behind me. My husband tells me to just put one foot in front of the other.

“I’ve never seen you quit a race,” he said.

He’s right. Even at mile 18 in the pouring-down-rain 2012 version of the California International Marathon, I kept going. Even when my feet where waterlogged and my soaked shoes were tearing up my feet (my black toenails are the result of all that fun now), I kept going. But that now seems like forever ago, even though it was only December.

It seems like another Tara. In many ways, it is. She had a gallbladder, for one. She also never missed a training run despite a bevy of personal issues keeping her from being around people, even talking to people in some cases.

I’ll admit, I’m a little scared to see what the trip to Pasadena, the run and the aftermath has in store for this new Tara.

Making everyday recipes low fat


I’m trying to really make better choices since my gallbladder removal, especially when it comes to consumption of many of my favorite foods. One that I love more than anything else? Cheese.

Cheese is always one of the things I told to consider cutting out completely.

The problem is that my husband can eat whatever he wants to. But I’m the one who cooks. So I have to make things for dinner that we both like.

As I was recuperating from surgery, I spent a lot of time on Pinterest. I don’t think I ever let my iPad go unless I was sleeping, which happened quite often as well. It was there I came across a recipe for a rolled chicken-bake like creation.

If you live near a Costco, you know the allure of a chicken bake. My husband loves them. I forgot to pin it, though, after I found it. So I tried to recreate it from memory, but with some low fat and fat free substitutes.


  • Two chicken breasts
  • 1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dry mix
  • 1 cup low fat mozzarella cheese
  • 1 package fat free cream cheese
  • 1 cylinder pre-made pizza dough
  • Fat free cooking oil



1. Start by frying the chicken with a fat free cooking oil. Add 1/4 of the ranch mix for seasoning. Move the chicken off the stove, let cool down.



2. Put the cream cheese and mozzarella into a bowl, mix in with 1/2 pack of the ranch dry mix. Set aside. Preheat oven at 400 degrees.

3. Open dough, spread out on a 13-by-9-inch pan in the shape of a rectangle.


4. Mix the chicken into the cream cheese and mozzarella.

5. Spread the chicken mixture along the center of the dough.


6. Roll the dough over the chicken mixture, making sure to pinch the ends so that the chicken mixture doesn’t come out.

7. Put roll in the oven for 20 minutes (this may change depending on the oven, my oven runs hot so it didn’t take 20 minutes).


8. Let cool. Cut in slices and serve. The ends will likely be a little more bulked up, so you can either cut the loaf in half and split the two separate  pieces or cut in smaller slices, serving the two end pieces a little larger than the rest.

The verdict? My husband loved it. He’s planning on taking the rest of it to work tomorrow for lunch.

Plus, he didn’t really notice the difference in taste from regular to low fat.

I have a great recipe for homemade pizza crust that I have from a recipe book from one of our favorite wineries, I’m hoping to try it with as well. I think next time I won’t put so much of the dry ranch dressing into the cream cheese mixture (which is why I said only about 1/2 the packet), so that it doesn’t taste as “ranchy” as I thought it did.

I don’t know exact calories, but I know it doesn’t taste as dense as the Costco chicken bakes. In fact, it actually isn’t all that bad on my newly sensitive stomach.

Guess who got cleared to run?

That would be ME!

Today marked two things: I was released from medical leave, thereby could officially end my employment. I’m relieved. I felt like I was waiting to bury someone. Those of you who know what it’s like between a death and the funeral know what I mean.

And I was told I can resume all normal athletic or exercise activities, which means I’m going to be busting my butt for the next three weeks to train for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Pasadena Half Marathon.

To be fair, I’ve run nine miles in the past two days, but always slow and always against medical advice. Now that I know I’ve “healed nicely” I can beat my little legs into the ground again. Words cannot describe how incredibly excited I am to run again.

Stupid gallbladder removal. No more delaying my training.

Lessons in anatomy and physiology


Do you know how hard it is to find a picture of a gallbladder on Wikimedia Commons? They are all ultrasound images. All kind of lame. I found a nice anatomy/physiology class look at the whole body, though, that seems to fit the purpose.

Let’s talk gallbladders.

There are three organs deemed “non existential” to the maintaining of life. We’ve all heard horror stories of people having their appendixes removed, usually with dramatic stories about it happening before high school graduation or grad night or, this one is real, I know someone who had her appendix removed a week before her wedding. She always says that’s the only reason she could fit into her dress.

Then there’s the spleen. The only people I know who have had theirs removed are people who have been in serious accidents.

Until last week, I wasn’t even aware my gallbladder could be what was causing me so many intestinal problems.

Now it makes sense.

Let’s backtrack.

The pain I’d been experiencing had been diagnosed as everything from “female troubles” to kidney stones to a “physical manifestation of stress.” I nearly kicked the doctor who diagnosed the latter of the three. Wow. If only stress could manifest as a removal appendage instead and we could just remove it from our lives.

In the last four months, as other craziness was going on in my life, it became considerably worse. I scaled back my food intake to get a little control over it. But I still had bowel issues (sorry, TMI, but necessary) and couldn’t drop a single pound on the scale. Something was up. Now that I look back at it, as my pain increased over the past couple years, the pounds stacked back on.

And I wasn’t eating bad. My husband joked that on paper, he is healthier than me. But what people don’t see is that I run 30-plus miles a week, eat healthy and take incredibly good care of myself. When I have pain, I know whether it’s expected or weird.

I’m still a little set back by the fact that my gallbladder was removed just a week ago.

But I’m learning to work within a new reality. Why? Because you can live without a gallbladder, but it does serve a vital body function.

The gallbladder holds bile. It rests under the liver. When we eat, it releases bile to the intestines to help with the moving of food and absorption. That’s why doctors introduce a liquid diet initially. Lots of Jello. Lots of broth. I’ve been gradually increasing my food intake.


It started out with lots of soup. This is a homemade chicken bow-tie soup that I made the other night. My husband says that he’ll eat anything I put on the table, so this was the first of a series of challenges I’m putting him up to. It passed. All he added was pepper. I can’t handle a lot of salt and pepper.

The problem is that a week after surgery, I’m still lacking an appetite. I’m eating. But not much. And everything I am eating is as much as I was before. My husband and I talked about my diet last night, as we realized a couple things:

– I haven’t started taking any of the medication I was on prior to surgery (and I mean ALL medication outside of the pain meds)

– I’ve stopped drinking Diet Coke for the time being because I was told my stomach probably couldn’t handle the carbonation.

– I’ve prepared nearly every meal or had soup since leaving the hospital

– I haven’t ran all but a mile, and it was slightly disastrous and I nearly threw up doing it

Today, I weighed myself and I’m six pounds less than I did before surgery. I’m not sure if that’s because of surgery and a hospital stay, which usually happens. But my calorie consumption has gone down too.

I’ve been trying out new recipes that are low-fat or no fat based.


I made a simple pizza, sans sauce. I used a French-bread crust, spread it out. I used low-fat mozzarella cheese, no fat cooking spray, sliced tomatoes and a little bit of basil. I also used some low-fat Parmesan cheese for taste. My husband loved it and it only took 20 minutes from prep to table.


I have some leftovers I’m planning on warming up today, in the oven instead of the microwave. It will be nice to have a little crunch. I haven’t gone as far as figuring out the calories for something like this, but it treated my stomach well. I had a couple little slices (it’s not a big pizza).

And so far my stomach is handling things decently. I think over the next couple weeks it will be really a “try and see” thing. Because my gallbladder isn’t stockpiling bile, sometimes too much fat is released. Then I have some stomach cramps and other issues that may or may not involve me running to the bathroom.

Another new addition to my diet is soy-based products.

I bought Boca chicken burgers. which have been relatively easy on my stomach as well.


Except I eat them as sandwiches, with low-fat cheese. And it tastes so good. This is one new food item my husband won’t be partaking in. I went to Berkeley for graduate school. I own Birkenstocks. He already tells me I’m a hippie. Eating anything Boca related doesn’t help, believe me.

So a week out, I’m relearning how to eat. I’m also dealing with very little appetite and other issues.

On a running note, I finally sent the email to the race director admitting I probably wouldn’t be able to run in the 10K next week. I figured I’d be feeling a lot better by now, but I’m still dozing off in the afternoon when my head starts to hurt. If I try to do too much, I end up having moments where I’m dizzy. If I want to drive, I can’t take my pain pills. So I’m kind of a mess still.

But my running buddy Sam scolded me for even thinking about running. She reminded me that we had a trip to Pasadena planned for next month. And it should likely now be my first race for 2013.

Getting through the post-operative fog


The past couple days, when I try to take photos, they mostly look like the image above. Actually, a lot of things look like the image above.

I’ve been doing something fancy Google searching only to find out about all the post-operative side effects that come along with having general anesthesia.

Because this isn’t pain induced. I’m kind of past the pain today. Or at least I haven’t been taking my medications that leave me even more tired and loopy than I am right now. Though this morning was pretty epic when I congratulated myself for finally being able to wear real clothes (hello jeans! hello actual shirt!), then promptly fell asleep on my couch for what is like the umpteenth time.

So lame.

The good news is that I’ve been able to wear real clothes all day without pain.

The bad news is that I’m still suffering the side effects of being put under, much worse than the last time I had surgery in 2010.

I stand up and have dizzy spells. I can’t stay awake for more than four or five hours at a time. Then, for some reason, it takes me forever to fall asleep. Then I’m stuck in this great semi-somnia where I feel awake and can sense everything around me, but feel kind of paralyzed. Weird stuff is going on up in this body.

It may surprise then that when I woke up this morning I said “oh hey, maybe since I’m not in horrible pain anymore, I can actually run on the treadmill.” Then I stood up and realized the room was spinning. And my ears were doing this weird throbbing thing.

I’m pretty sure I’d be a disaster in my running shoes right now.

But I can’t help but feel a great need to get back to running as soon as possible. I haven’t even sent an email to the race director of the upcoming race because I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, I can run the 10K. It will be alright, yes?

I’m probably so wrong.

I’m barely eating solid foods.


But I’m taking down a lot of soup. My mother in law made the bowl above. She actually made enough for two, but I made my husband eat his fatty chicken strips from the night before. (That’s what he gets for eating in front of me. The chicken smelled so good I wanted to grab the strip right from his hand.)

Since I can’t drive until I am done with my pain pills, I asked him if he could take me to the store yesterday. I had to throw away most of what was in our pantry because it’s not exactly considering healthy or low fat by any means.

“We need food,” I said.

He gave me this look that bordered between sympathy and annoyance.

But he took me. Since I had a $10 off $50 coupon at Winco, he went there. Speaking of coupons, when I got to the register the clerk nearly freaked out when she saw I had about 10 other coupons to use.

She actually said “Oh Lord!” like I was one of those crazy coupon ladies who was going to get my grocery bill down to $1.50 or something like that. Yeah, we only saved $14.40.

We spent an hour in the store, picking up lots of fruits and vegetables (my snack staples). We also grabbed chicken and pork chops, to supplement the ground beef and stew meat we already have. We made a pact: no grocery shopping for two weeks. Instead, we need to eat everything in our pantry and refrigerator. The only thing I’d buy is fruits. Those seem to go pretty quickly.

My husband and I haven’t shopped together in a long time. The last time was probably before I started working two jobs. It was nice, if only because I’m not supposed to push the cart.

But the fog followed me to the store too, where the lights seemed to be screaming at me. I nearly fell over a couple times. If it hadn’t been for the shopping cart, I probably would have fallen in an aisle and had cans all over me.

Our mission to get low-fat and non-fat foods was a success, though.

We came home with a lot of good food and a meal plan.

So as much as I think I’m feeling better, I’m still realizing that this whole gallbladder episode was bigger than even I could imagine. I still have sterile-strips across the four holes in my abdomen. I’m supposed to wait until they “fall off” in the shower. I’m also supposed to call Monday and make a follow-up appointment with my surgeon to make sure everything is healing okay.

And yet, all I can think about is putting my Nikes back on and hitting the road.

My (somewhat) daily diet


First thing: I’m very grateful for the thoughts, sentiments and such I’ve received through email. This hasn’t exactly been the easiest week of my life. And I think it’s awesome that people I don’t even know personally choose to reach out.

Second: I’ve been asked about what my diet is typically like on a day-to-day basis.

It’s a good question, especially considering that the gallstone my doctor found was incredibly huge.

So what does a typical, not splurging at Boudin day, look like for me? It’s pretty basic.


– Banana

– 100 calorie Grek yogurt



– Weight Watchers or Lean Cuisine meal

– Or a peanut butter sandwich on wheat bread

– Or a quick, small salad


Snack options (Usually two or three during the day)

– Simply Fruit Rolls or sticks

– Granola bar

– Banana

– Golden Delicious apple

– Wheat thins

– Sugar Free Jello

– Another Greek yogurt



If I’m alone…

– Progresso Light Soup

– Sushi (Because my husband hates sushi, so if I’m alone this is the only time I can actually eat sushi)

– Weight Watchers or Lean Cuisine meal

If my husband is around…

– Chicken breast

– Side vegetable, usually corn, but sometimes zucchini

– Potatoes, pasta or some other starch

Doesn’t seem too bad, right?

My problem is overeating. If I make potatoes au gratin, I’m only really supposed to eat about a cup full. But, unfortunately, I have to eat more than that. I usually go back for seconds and thirds without hesitation.

Or when I eat chips, I grab more than the handful I am supposed to. I can’t seem to control it very well.

Is that what let to the gallstone and gallbladder issues? Maybe. Who knows. I’ve been dealing with these pains since a long time before I gained a ton of weight. The first time I can remember having this pain, I was in high school. At that point, I was only 135 pounds.

But my issue has always been the overeating. I eat a lot of good stuff.

In fact, when my husband brought me home from the hospital he started searching around for the things I could eat. He found sugar free Jello and the soup and a bunch of low-fat foods. He didn’t need to go buy much at all.

So if I had been eating this stuff all along, why has my stomach hurt so bad lately?

I don’t know. But I went back and looked at recent posts where I complained about abdomen issues while running, I can say that it was likely the result of the gallbladder issues getting really, really severe. Two emergency room visits in two weeks? Yes, that should tell me something.

But now my diet is definitely more exclusive than inclusive.

So I’m cutting back even more so. But my diet will likely stay very, very similar. Now, though, it’s much more important to stay within portion limits and not overdo the fat.